On the eve of His execution, during His Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus prepared His Apostles for the work they would do after His Passion, Death and Resurrection. He assured them, “I will not leave you orphans.”
The word “orphan” brings up images of pain and sorrow as we think of small children who have lost their parents through death or desertion. We can sense the Apostles’ feelings of anxiety, fear, isolation, and abandonment.
What will they do without Jesus? Where will they go? How will they cope? Who will answer their questions, settle their arguments, calm their fears, continue their spiritual formation, lead them, feed them, heal them, inspire them, correct them, comfort them?
Knowing their concerns, Jesus reassured them that He will not abandon them and leave them stranded. He was not about to say a final “Good bye, good luck and God bless you.” He promised His followers: “I will come back to you! I will send you an “Advocate” to be always with you.” What a sigh of relief must have echoed in that upper room.
Today, Jesus speaks of “another Advocate – the Holy Spirit” – the “Spirit of Truth” – Who will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is to let us know that we are loved by God. The Holy Spirit moves into every human situation bringing healing, reconciliation, wholeness, and peace of mind and heart and soul.
The Holy Spirit is the Gift of the Father and the Son who takes away all fear, doubt and insecurity, and fills the Church with hope, trust and confidence in facing the challenges of living according to the Gospel.
In the Apostolic Church, the Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles to give witness to Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The Book of the Act of the Apostles peaks of the power of the Holy Spirit in the early Church:
We are told of a crippled man who was cured at the beautiful gate of the temple. We are told that as they assembled for prayer, the houses rocked. We are told that the Word of God was proclaimed boldly. We are told that the sick were taken into the streets and laid on cot in the hope that the shadow of the Peter would fall on them and they would be cured.
We are told that as the Apostles continued to preach, the number of disciples were greatly increased. We are told of a dead woman (Tabatha) being raised in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are told that in the power of the Holy Spirit, demons were cast out and the dead were raised,
It would have been wonderful to live in the infancy period of the Church, but the signs and wonders of the infant Church did not end with the death of the last Apostle. The Holy Spirit is alive and directs the Church today.
He guided it through the dark ages of illiterate clergy and evil bishops; He guided it through the fracture of the Protestant reformation as Calvin, Zwingly, and Luther broke from Rome. He guided through the turmoil of Councils, and He is with the Church today leading and guiding us.
In the Second Reading, St. Peter, tells us that we are called upon to teach and preach by the way we live-out our faith: yet Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “The world does not accept the Spirit of Truth because they fail to see the Spirit of Truth in us!”
Perhaps the reason society even after 2000 years continues to refuse the Holy Spirit is because we have failed to believe and live the message of Christianity. Over the years the teaching of Jesus and the Church have been watered-down, and Faith has become mediocre – our love of God has limits and our Faith has no passion. Many are not totally convinced of the importance and relevance of the Gospel in our lives, and in the life of society today. God and the Church are not convenient for the life-styles we have chosen to live. Many half-heartedly proclaim the Spirit of Truth because they are not convinced of the truth and we are afraid of what other will think or say.
The careful glance around the restaurant before saying grace, the almost whispered defense of faith in a crowded office lounge, the embarrassed snicker at the joke which ridicules our Faith or basic Christian values: – these are the signs of a half-hearted proclamation of the Holy Spirit. In these situations we panic and silently ask ourselves:
What will happen to me if I act in a way that society doesn’t accept? What will happen if I speak about moral norms which society calls old fashioned and outdated? What will happen if I walk-out-on a situation that people find to be stimulating and acceptable?”
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”. With these words, He commands us to: live our Faith every day and not merely talk about it. He commands us to be convinced of the truth of our Faith. He commands us to take our Faith seriously and make a radical change in our individual lives, in our families, in our parishes and in the world.
The Holy Spirit challenges us so that we are not content with a mediocre Faith. He challenges us to evaluate our priorities and our values in the light of the Holy Gospel – so that all will know that the Church is alive and Well; and the Church is forever young.